Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Two men robbed a store. The security video shows that one pointed a shotgun at the clerk. The gunman wore a black sweatshirt with a white skeleton pattern that zipped to form a skull hood. The gunman’s exposed hands appeared black to the clerk and on the video. The accomplice took cash. The men fled. Weeks later, officers visited Bailey’s mother. She showed the detectives Bailey's bedroom. They saw a skeleton hoodie and prepared an affidavit for a search warrant, noting that they had received an anonymous tip that Bailey, an African-American, had committed the robbery. A judge approved the warrant. Detectives seized the sweatshirt. Officers arrested Bailey after he fled. Bailey was indicted for armed robbery, possession of a short-barreled shotgun, and resisting arrest. The prosecutor dropped two charges; Bailey pleaded guilty to resisting. Bailey sued, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violations of his Fourth Amendment rights, citing inconsistencies in the description. The district court denied motions to dismiss, based on purported falsehoods in the affidavit. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The warrant did not say whether the description came from the victim or the video and mentioned both sources; it was not deliberately false. There were few disparities between the video and the warrant description. Even if the warrant were stripped of possible falsities, a fair probability remained that the officers would find evidence of the robbery in Bailey’s home; his Fourth Amendment claim and his Monell claim against the city fail as a matter of law. View "Bailey v. City of Ann Arbor" on Justia Law

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Underwood’s step-granddaughter (Jane) told her mother that Underwood had sex with her in August 2014. According to Jane, she and her cousin (John) had gone on a work trip with Underwood in his semi-truck. Jane, John, and Underwood first went to Pennsylvania. After Underwood took John home, Underwood took Jane to Michigan with him. According to Jane, when they arrived in Michigan, Underwood sexually assaulted her. Jane’s mother took Jane to the local hospital and then to the Children’s Advocacy Center. John also accused Underwood of sexual misconduct and was taken to the Advocacy Center. Underwood was convicted of crossing a state line with intent to engage in a sexual act a minor, 18 U.S.C. 2241(c), and of transporting his step-granddaughter in interstate commerce with the intent that she engage in unlawful sexual activity, 18 U.S.C. 2423(a). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Underwood’s argument that the district court erred in allowing his wife to testify at his trial, violating both the confidential marital communications privilege and the adverse spousal testimony privilege. The court rejected a claim that allowing Underwood’s daughter and the sexual assault nurse to testify violated Federal Rules of Evidence 403 and 803(4). View "United States v. Underwood" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Monie was charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 846 (Count 1); possession with intent to distribute, aided by others, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. 2 (Count 6); use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1) (Count 7); being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g) and the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1) (Count 8). Monie pleaded guilty to Counts 1 and 8 without a plea agreement and was convicted on Counts 6 and 7. Count 8 carried a mandatory-minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. During the plea colloquy, the court erroneously did not state that ACCA carried a mandatory-minimum sentence but erroneously stated that the maximum sentence for Count 8 was 10 years. That 15-year mandatory-minimum sentence affected every aspect of Monie’s sentence. The court sentenced Monie to 15 years each for Counts 1, 6, and 8, to be served concurrently, plus five consecutive years on Count 7. There is no evidence that Monie knew about the mandatory minimum before his plea. The Presentence Report correctly stated Count 8’s penalty range. The Sixth Circuit remanded to allow Monie to withdraw his plea. Monie established that there is a reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty but for the court’s Rule 11 error, and demonstrated that the error affected his substantial rights. View "United States v. Monie" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A state court in Kent County, Michigan, issued an arrest warrant for Riley, having found probable cause to believe that he had committed armed robbery of a local store. Days later, Riley purchased a cell phone serviced by AT&T. A member of Riley’s family gave that phone’s telephone number to Riley’s girlfriend, who disclosed the number to the U.S. Marshal Service Grand Rapids Apprehension Team. Deputy Bowman obtained a state court order, compelling AT&T to produce telecommunications records of Riley’s cell phone under federal electronic-surveillance laws, 18 U.S.C. 2703, 3123, 3124. The government used Riley’s GPS location data to learn that Riley was hiding out at the Airport Inn in Memphis, Tennessee and arrested him about seven hours later, only after inquiring of the front-desk clerk to ascertain Riley’s specific room number. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of a motion to suppress. The GPS tracking provided no greater insight into Riley’s whereabouts than what Riley exposed to public view as he traveled “along public thoroughfares” to the hotel lobby. Riley has no reasonable expectation of privacy against such tracking and the tracking did not amount to a Fourth Amendment search. View "United States v. Riley" on Justia Law

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Baker pled guilty to participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy. Baker had a criminal history category of IV; the plea agreement stipulated that 100-200 grams of cocaine be attributed to Baker and that his total offense level be set at 12, resulting in an agreed Guidelines range of 21-27 months’ imprisonment. The government explained that it could not prove an amount in excess of 172 grams of cocaine attributable to Baker, but the court was unconvinced and reviewed Baker’s confidential proffer statement, developed after Baker agreed to provide information about the conspiracy. The court found Baker responsible for 500 grams to two kilograms of cocaine, significantly increasing Baker’s offense level. The court acknowledged that it could not use information found only in Baker’s confidential proffer statement to determine the applicable Guidelines range, but based its finding on a post-arrest recorded phone call in which Baker stated that officers missed “twelve-five” when they searched his home; a codefendant’s proffer statement that Baker was given a “large” amount of cocaine; and a codefendant’s proffer that discussed drug transactions but did not specify any amount. The court determined that the appropriate range was 51-63 months’ imprisonment and sentenced Baker to 50 months. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, acknowledging that the court’s methodology “raises concerns,” but finding the sentence neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Baker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2014, Defendant was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Pursuant to a search incident to arrest, police found on Defendant’s person 17 rounds of ammunition. Defendant pleaded guilty as a felon in possession of ammunition, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), without a plea agreement. The probation office classified Defendant as an armed career criminal under 18 U.S.C. 924(e), due to Defendant’s two prior robbery convictions and one prior attempted-aggravated-robbery conviction. The designation enhanced Defendant’s sentencing range to 15 years to life imprisonment. At sentencing, Defendant’s only objection was that his convictions for robbery and attempted aggravated robbery on May 24, 2000, should be considered a single event under ACCA.. Each indictment listed a distinct business as the victim; the corresponding judgment cross-referenced the relevant indictment. The district court found that, despite possibly being connected by one conspiratorial agreement, the two robberies were “legally and factually distinct,” and therefore were “properly considered separate offenses,” but granted the government’s motion to reduce Defendant’s sentence (U.S.S.G. 5K1.1 and 18 U.S.C. 3553(e), and sentenced Defendant to 110 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that Defendant admitted under oath that he and his partner “planned to hit two stores.” View "United States v. Southers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Andrews was charged with conspiring to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A) and 846; conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and threats of physical violence, 18 U.S.C. 1951; aiding and abetting the possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A); and being a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g). Andrews moved to dismiss, claiming outrageous government conduct. He argued that he was recruited to participate in an “all-too-easy stash-house robbery” by undercover ATF agents, who engineered and directed the scheme. The court denied the motion, crediting an agent’s testimony that a defendant first approached a confidential informant to find “drug dealers he could take down” and that ATF had provided multiple opportunities to withdraw. The court made clear that it was not deciding the strength of an entrapment defense. The court “preliminarily” accepted his conditional guilty plea, pending preparation of a presentencing report. Andrews later moved to withdraw his plea as a matter of absolute right under Rule 11(d)(1). The court denied the motion, reiterated that Andrews had made an informed, voluntary, and valid guilty plea, and sentenced Andrews to 180 months, pursuant to the agreement. The Guidelines range was 200-235 months. The Sixth Circuit reversed, noting that the district court had expressly not accepted the plea. View "United States v. Andrews" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Statute is not unconstitutionally vague for providing a stiffer penalty for receipt than for possession of child pornography A Kentucky Detective used Nordic Mule, a law enforcement software package, to search for IP addresses that had recently shared child pornography on the peer-to-peer file-sharing network eDonkey, then obtained a search warrant for Dunning’s residence, where police seized electronic devices, containing over 22,000 images and videos depicting the sexual exploitation of minors. Dunning moved for discovery, seeking the source code for the software that the detective relied on for the warrant. The government responded: The program … is part of the Child Rescue Coalition, which is a private non-profit organization. The source code and program are proprietary and are not in the possession of the United States. The court denied Dunning’s discovery motion and his motion to suppress evidence, which argued that the warrant application was not supported by probable cause because the detective used software of uncertain reliability and that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his computer files. Dunning then pled guilty under 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(2) and was sentenced to 165 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and that his sentence was unreasonable, and upholding denial of his motions. View "United States v. Dunning" on Justia Law

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Sixth Circuit upholds allowing jury questions in online extortion case. Using the pseudonym “Dr. Evil,” an extortionist demanded $1 million in Bitcoin in exchange for an encryption key to Mitt Romney’s unreleased tax returns, which he claimed to have stolen from an accounting firm. He posted an image of Mike Myers’s Dr. Evil, from an Austin Powers movie, in the accounting firm’s Franklin, Tennessee office lobby. Agents traced the scheme to Brown, who had not actually stolen Romney’s returns. With 12 convictions for wire fraud and extortion, Brown was given a four-year prison sentence, and ordered to pay restitution. The Sixth Circuit affirmed his conviction, rejecting arguments that the search warrant lacked probable cause and that Brown was prejudiced by the judge allowing questions from the jury. The affidavit offered “a fair probability” that Brown’s home would contain evidence of the crime. Understanding the evidence required the jury to grasp the Secret Service’s forensic analysis of thumb drives, online posts, and Brown’s computers, Bitcoin, fingerprint matching, and digital photo manipulation-- enough complexity for a court to believe that permitting questions might aid jurors. The court vacated the sentence. Brown’s statements to prosecutors did not significantly impede the investigation, to justify the obstruction of justice enhancement. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Griffin pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the government by submitting false income tax refund claims to obtain refund anticipation checks. Griffin agreed, in writing, that the maximum penalty was up to 10 years’ imprisonment, that the court could vary from the guidelines range, and that he waived his right to appeal except any punishment in excess of the statutory maximum or the sentencing guidelines range. The government agreed that Griffin’s total offense level was 10 before acceptance of responsibility and to recommend a reduction for acceptance of responsibility. The court denied an adjustment for acceptance of responsibility and increased the base offense level by two for obstruction of justice. As a result, the sentencing range was 10-16 months, rather than zero-six months. After remand, the court sentenced Griffin to 10 months, finding that Griffin had obstructed justice by providing materially false information to the judge and to law enforcement officers: Griffin misrepresented that the personal information used to prepare the fraudulent tax returns had been supplied by an accountant, when, in fact, Griffin provided the information to the accountant. Griffin misrepresented that he only cashed checks and had never sent anyone’s personal information to another. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal as barred by the waiver, rejecting Griffin’s argument that his sentence was not within the guidelines range. View "United States v. Griffin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law